Harry Potter Decor to Make Your Apartment Positively Magical

castle

I recently visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios for the first time and it rekindled the love I have for the entire Harry Potter universe – especially the books. Although I will admit the movies brought a certain fantastical visual experience to the original stories I loved so much. Being the design nerd I am, one of the great highlights of watching the movies for me is seeing how all the interiors look! So if you want to recreate your favorite Harry Potter space from the movie (or the books!) there are some fun and whimsical products available to help you bring it to life!

There are so many delightful Harry Potter themed pieces on Etsy. I narrowed my top picks down to the following items:

Pottery Barn [Teen] (don’t laugh! It’s pretty grown-up looking for the teen section) has an amazing collection of Harry Potter themed goods to make your space feel as whimsical as a room in Hogwarts castle. My two favorite items are this velvet Platform 9 ¾ throw pillow and this set of starry owl bed linens.

On Society 6’s website, you can get your favorite designs printed on a number of household items, such as pillows, shower curtains, art prints, and more. There are so many great artists who upload work there as well so it makes it a perfect spot to find the right piece for your apartment. I love this well designed Basilisk print– and there is a whole set of other fantastic beasts related prints on this particular artist’s page. The same artist also has a “When in doubt, go to the library” design that makes a fabulous tapestry to decorate your wall with.

You can get crafty with your Harry Potter decor too and DIY it. There’s a plethora of ideas on Pinterest, of course. Embrace your love of all things magical and make your apartment fit for a wizard.

Halloween Movie Night: Cult Classic Edition

movie

Halloween movies are some of the absolute best movies in my oh-so-expert opinion. You can go so many different routes – traditional horror, goofy comedy, stop animation, bizarre and whimsical, and more. Some of the most enjoyable ones are not always the big blockbusters, but the underappreciated cult classics that steal my heart. So this year when you throw your Halloween party at your apartment or when you have a weekly movie night, try one of these indie bad boys.

The Evil Dead – This film is incredibly popular these days, but it wasn’t originally so popular and is still considered a weird cult classic in its own right. It’s low-budget, gory, strange, and surprisingly funny. It starts off slow, but it will pull you in and have you saying “what exactly just happened?” in no time.

Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Manos: The Hands of Fate – If you want something to make you laugh this Halloween, enjoy what is considered one of the world’s worst B movies commentated on by the cast of MST3K. Watch as a family vacations at a creepy motel, only to find the staff there isn’t exactly what they seem. While you watch, robots Crow, Tom Servo, and show host Joel poke fun at this hilariously bad thriller.

Rockula – Easily one of the goofiest screwball vampire comedies, it’s chock full of bad puns, innuendo, and cheesy 90’s humor. Rockula is a vampire who is condemned to live forever and continuously watch the love of his life die and get reincarnated. He has to break the spell somehow, but messes up every time until…well you’ll see. Definitely a great pick for a movie night with friends.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – A huge cult favorite. Watching it annually is excellent, but seeing it performed live every year is even better! Dance the Time Warp, throw rice, and play with water guns while watching RHPS’s strange musical rendition of what would happen if you and your fiance accidentally ran into a castle full of Transylvanian transvestites and space aliens. I mean, how could that go wrong?

Donnie Darko – Being a 90’s kid this film caught me at exactly the right age. Full of angst and confusion Donnie Darko lives in a world of social expectation, anxiety, and suburban “normalcy”. Donnie challenges authority, dives deep into the dark inner workings of his psyche, and tackles time travel, which all climaxes right on the evening of Halloween. This is my personal pick for the time of year – the soundtrack is the perfect 80’s dark wave mix, the dialogue is provocative, and the visuals are intense.

House on Haunted Hill – Vincent Price at his best in this classic creepy flick in which he invites people willing to spend the night in his haunted mansion $1,000,000 to be locked in for the entire evening…if they dare. Classic horror at its best.

Portable Sound

record

Unlike most people my age, I started collecting records in high school. Not that this makes me special or anything, but at the time CD’s and digital music files from Napster were the preferred musical mediums my friends chose and I was one of the odd ones out. Now the great pendulum has swung back and records are making more money than CD’s in the music industry. I’m glad to see the change because there is a great enjoyment that comes from putting a record on and enjoying the warmth of its sound, complete with the occasional pop and crackle.

Since the resurgence of record listening, it’s no surprise record players have made a big comeback, too. Traditionally one needs a turntable (record player), a receiver, and a set of speakers for the complete record playing setup. This changed somewhat with the emergence of the portable record player in the 1950’s. Early gramophones had the speaker and all necessary electronics built in, but they were hardly portable. Portable record players became very popular in the 1960’s, despite the often poor speaker quality in them. The great advantage was this – they were (obviously) portable. They could be packed up and carried by the handle wherever you wanted to take them.

Portable record players have made a huge comeback and are readily available from a number of manufacturers. One of the wonderful things about these machines is they fit better in an apartment than a standard turntable-receiver-speaker-cabinet setup. And if you’ve frequented any Pinterest boards lately or shopped at Urban Outfitters you’ve probably noticed they’re used almost as much for a piece of decor as they are as an appliance. Companies are producing the record players in a myriad of patterns, shapes, and colors so you can find the perfect one to complement your particular design style.

So, here are some of my favorite contemporary throwbacks to the portable record player:

This is the most simple (while still attractive) stand-alone player you can spring for

This mid-century replica takes up a little more space in your apartment, but is such a beauty!

This one is wonderfully 60’s looking and has a higher grade speaker than the bare-bones version (this is my favorite of the lot)

This one’s a splurge, but it’s a very high quality player if you’re concerned about the sound

If you’re looking for records to buy in Gainesville, try Arrow’s Aim Records or Hear Again Music & Movies. Happy listening!

Goodbye, Downton Abbey – What We Can Learn From the Crawleys

castle

After six years of Downton Abbey I count myself among the completely smitten, unabashed fans of the show despite knowing it’s a bit of a crowd pleaser. The facts remain: the Dowager Countess has the sharpest and most amusing wit of all, Lady Mary follows closely in her steps but with a bit more cheek, and it is fascinating seeing the inner workings of a grand old house in England at the turn of the century. Not to mention the clothes. The clothes! I could go on and on about the triumphs, heartbreaks, and pivotal moments of Downton Abbey, ad nauseum, but I shall spare you all. Instead I will point out its virtues and what we can all learn from this beloved show and how they so easily apply to our contemporary lives.

Kindness Reigns: So many times characters showed immense kindness to one another. Lady Sybil helped Gwen, a housemaid, learn to type and apply for jobs as a secretary. Later on, Gwen returns to the house with her husband with whom she has started a college for women. Without Lady Sybil’s help Gwen may not have had the same opportunity to rise above the life of service. So think…WWLSD? (What Would Lady Sybil Do?)

Change is Good: After Matthew’s and Lady Sybil’s deaths, Tom and Mary become the agents of the estate and wish to streamline the household and update its operations. The Earl of Grantham is none too pleased, but learns in the end that change is indeed good and to keep up with the world, one must change with it. Let it go.

Family [and togetherness] is Key: No matter what the challenge or how divided they become over it (this past season’s hospital debate), the family sticks together and is loyal to one another. There have been many moments of heartbreak and forgiveness, which are both inevitable facts of life. So remember to forgive and forget…and when in serious doubt of someone’s forgiveness, you can always play the Countess’ hand and give them a puppy.

Keep your family/friendships strong

Though fictitious, the Crawley family represents any family which inevitably deals with life’s ups and downs and constant challenges. They remind us that all hardships and difficulties can be overcome through strength, love, and unity.

Entertaining Essential: The Bar Cart

bar

With a plethora of holidays approaching, it’s inevitable that you’ll host guests in your apartment for one occasion or another in the near future. Whether you want a station for cocktails, tea, French pressed coffee, or simple bottled drinks, the bar cart does serious double duty. It’s both functional and an attractive way to display what typically hides in your cabinet. The open shelving on the cart provides a frame-like display of your glasses and bottles, making it easy to tie it in as a piece of furniture in your room.

We have established it looks nice and is also functional. The best is yet to come: not only is it functional, but it’s amazingly functional because generally bar carts are mobile. That’s right, you can put it in any room and change your mind as much as you want! Everybody needs a little room to change things up. So if you’re short on space in your living room, you can use the bar cart as shelving there or somewhere else until it’s time to entertain and rearrange to accommodate guests. Brilliant!

Bar carts tend to be pricey in stores like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, but with a watchful eye kept on flea markets and thrift stores, you can scoop one up for your apartment relatively cheaply. For inspiration on how you can style your bar cart, check out this HGTV slideshow here.

(photo credit: hgtv.com)

Sweet cornbread recipe

With Thanksgiving right around the corner,  you are probably already looking for some tasty recipes to make for that special meal.  One staple food on every table during Thanksgiving is cornbread and what better way to make cornbread even tastier than by mixing it with cake mix!  All you have to do buy Betty Crocker cornbread mix and Betty Crocker yellow cake mix, make them both, then combine the 2 mixtures and pop it in the oven,  super easy, and so delicious!  Not only can you enjoy this sweet treat during Thanksgiving, you can have it for Christmas and even with your New Year’s Eve meal.  Cornbread with a pinch of sweetness, a perfect addition to the dinner table this holiday season!

http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/cake-mix-cornbread/e6bea189-70d3-4ad8-a4f6-837046bd2402

1982 Bar Music and Arts Cafe: A bar with a twist

What better kind of a bar to put in a college town than a bar that lets you play video games?  1982 Bar offers an extensive menu of vegetarian, vegan, and straight up carnivore options from BBQ pulled pork tacos, to veggie wraps, coffees, shakes, and of course, beers.  After guzzling down some tasty beers, play any of their Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or Nintendo 64 games and get super nostalgic.  On top of that, there are shows ranging from stand up comedy to theater as well as an art exhibit.  Located at 919 W University Avenue, in Gainesville and open from 6:30 pm to 2 am Tuesday through Friday and 7:30 pm to 2 am Saturday through Monday, come by to get your drink and video game on like it’s 1982 at 1982 Bar.

http://www.1982bar.com

Brass Tap

If you are looking for a night of relaxed fun accompanied with some drinks of the 21 and over variety, then you definitely want to check out Brass Tap. Located at 3833 SW Archer Rd., Bldg. 2, in Gainesville, this beer, wine, and cigar bar offers 40 beers on tap and over 300 different bottle beers. Brass Tap will introduce you to delicious and refreshing beverages that you may not have found anywhere else, in a relaxed environment away from the loud clubs and bars along midtown and downtown.  Open from 2 pm to 3 am Monday through Friday and noon to 3 am Saturday and Sunday, you will come for the drinks, but you’ll stay for the live music and bands that often play at Brass Tap, just be sure to check out their website to see what band will be playing next.

http://brasstapbeerbar.com/

Paintball in Newberry

If you are looking for a fun and colorful day out, then you may want to check out First Strike Paintball at 5619 SE CR 337, Newberry, Florida just a few miles west of Gainesville. First Strike offers 5 different fields, depending on what kind of paintball game you have in mind, with an Airball field coming soon. You can plan a big trip with your own friends or you can join one of their many tournaments or Big Games. Rental fees vary depending on what equipment you use so be sure to check out the website to find out what works best for you. Hours of operation are Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm and Sundays from noon to 4 pm or you can call ahead to make special reservations. For a day of fun, competition, and plenty of exercise, First Strike Paintball is the place to be.

http://www.firststrikepaintball.com/

Cool as ice

If you are always looking for ways to spice up your parties and get-togethers, one idea that you may not have heard of yet, but you will soon want to try is beautifying your ice! By beautifying, I don’t mean breaking out the lipstick and eyeliner, I mean coloring. Something as simple as adding a little color to your ice can make for a cool conversation starter as well as adding a little extra flavor to your drinks depending on what you use to color your ice. The link below suggests using Cool Aid but you can use fruit drinks, Gator Aid, or whatever other drinks you prefer that would mix well with a clear liquid like Sprite or 7-Up. Just pop your colored juice in an ice tray and once frozen, add the cute cubes to your Sprite. These ice cubes will be sure to liven up any party!

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/346143921332497467/